Nehemiah 6:1-7:3 – Nehemiah as the Object of Reproach


Nehemiah 6:1-7:3


As the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls nears completion, Sanballat and his associates turn from reproach of the city or those engaged in the rebuilding project to an attack of Nehemiah himself, but to no avail.


The reproach that described the sorry state of Jerusalem and its inhabitants (1:3; 2:17) and then narrowed to attack the builders seeking to rectify the situation (4:4) now is centered on Nehemiah himself (6:13). Three building reports (6:1, 15-16; 7:1) alternate with three schemes of intimidation (6:2-9, 10-14, 17-19) aimed at Nehemiah.

All three schemes end with a rare form of a verb meaning “to frighten” (6:9, 14, 19). The first two share a common progression in which the occasion (vv. 1, 10a) is followed by the scheme and Nehemiah’s response (vv. 2-8, 10b-12), intimidation as the reason for the scheme (vv. 9a, 13), and a prayer (vv. 9b, 14). The final scheme (6:17-19) reads more like a summary of the process as a whole. The schemes seek to attack Nehemiah at the level of his basic loyalties. The first charges Nehemiah with sedition and thus challenges his loyalty to Artaxerxes, the Persian king. The second, by trying to lure Nehemiah, a layperson, into inappropriate use of the temple, challenges his loyalty to God. The third seeks to drive a wedge between Nehemiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Through it all, Nehemiah remained loyal to his king and faithful to his God. In the following chapters we will see him dedicate himself to the administration of his charges.

Stashed away in the midst of the three rather dull building reports is the spectacular announcement, modestly made almost in passing, that the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul (probably October 2, 445 B.C.E.), in a mere fifty-two days (6:15)! The message is clear. In the midst of the villainous attempts to discredit Nehemiah and frustrate the project, God remained faithful to the promise, an assurance Nehemiah never lost sight of. Our strength lies in this faith, not in the securities that we construct ourselves.